Everything there is to see in Barcelona when you visit the city
Published on June 26, 2019 by Catalan Holidays
Before visiting the capital or main city of Catalonia, it is necessary to think about what you want to see in Barcelona and to set out your itinerary. When you look for information on the internet, you find a huge array of options that are a little overwhelming. Let’s try to make your visit to Barcelona easier.
We will suggest a list of neighbourhoods, buildings, parks, museums and markets to give you your first glance at the main places to visit in Barcelona. Make your own choices from places of interest to sightseeing in Barcelona.
Barcelona is a very beautiful, modern city, full of contrasts and very special. Its streets, Modernist architecture, museums, parks, beaches, port, mountains, Tibidabo or the Gothic Quarter will make you want to come back to discover even more.
- Streets, walks and emblematic neighbourhoods in Barcelona
- The most visited buildings in the city of Barcelona
- What museums to visit in Barcelona
- Experiencies and Activities in Barcelona
- Two Markets in Barcelona that you can’t miss
- Parks of tourist attractions
- Where to sleep in Barcelona
Streets, walks and emblematic neighbourhoods in Barcelona
Following an itinerary that goes from the sea to the mountains, crossing the city of Barcelona, we find the main arteries which are the Rambla and Passeig de Gracia shopping streets. On both sides of those streets we have unique neighbourhoods, such as the Gothic Quarter, Born District or Raval District. And if we go even deeper we reach the fantastic Gracia District, one of our favourite areas because of its great atmosphere and as it is away from mass tourism.
Barceloneta is a neighbourhood of seafaring origin located in the Ciutat Vella district, beside the sea. It is an area adjacent to the Old Bridge, Ribera Neighbourhood, Franca Railway Station and the Olympic Harbour.
It is known for being a picturesque area, with beaches and full of restaurants where you can eat very well, with abundant food and cheap prices.
We also know this place as Las Ramblas. The most visited tourist street runs between the Old Bridge and Placa de Catalunya. In Barcelona’s La Rambla, you walk between shops, kiosks, living statues and buildings like the Liceu Opera or the Boqueria Market.
If we are looking for a quiet place once inside the Rambla, we can go to the Royal Square. Or, if what you are looking for is something a bit different, we could go to the heart of the street that leads to the Wax Museum and visit the Bosc de les Fades magical forest experience.
By amaianos: Les Rambles from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA
In the historical centre we have Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, the oldest part of the city centre and one of the prettiest areas. It is found right by the side of La Rambla.
It is a neighbourhood where we will find Barcelona Cathedral or The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, Sant Jaume Square with the Presidential Palace and City Hall, Royal Square, King’s Square with the Barcelona History Museum, Portal de l’Angel shopping street and many other places that are worth visiting.
Located next to the Gothic Quarter, Born is one of the zones inside Barcelona’s Ribera Neighbourhood. Although many call the neighbourhood the Born District, it causes some confusion. It is just 10 minutes from the beach and next to the Ciutadella Park.
In this area we can visit the Santa Maria del Mar Church and the Cathedral of the Sea which gives its name to the famous book by Spanish writer, Ildefonso Falcones.
We can also walk along the Passeig del Born, see the Gothic Gallery and the Born Market.
We find Raval in the Ciutat Vella district, between Poble Sec, the Sant Antoni neighbourhood and the Gothic Quarter. For a long time it was known as China Town. In Raval District we can find the Romanesque Sant Pau de Camp Church, Sant Agusti Church or the Boqueria Market.
56% of the residents of this neighbourhood come from other parts of the world. It is a neighbourhood known for multiculturalism. Another outstanding place in this district is Guell Palace, designed by Antoni Gaudi for his patron Eusebi Guell.
Passeig de Gracia
This time we head towards one of the most famous avenues in Catalonia and one of the main streets in the city of Barcelona. The Passeig de Gracia is an important tourist destination because of its shopping areas, businesses and modernist architecture.
Walking down the Passeig de Gracia we find the dome of the La Union and Fenix building (Eusebi Bona Puig and Frederic Mares), the Malagrida Palace (Joaquin Codina), the Mulleras House (Luis Sagnier i Vilavechia), the Ametller House (Puig i Cadafalch) or the Batllo House (Antoni Gaudi). Undoubtably, a trip to the Modernist architecture that is clearly reflected in what they call the “Block of discord”, the block that runs between Consell de Cent Street and Arago Street where there are buildings from the three outstanding Modernist architects: Gaudi, Puig i Cadafalch and Domenech i Montaner.
The Gracia District stands out for its charismatic, cosmopolitan and bohemian atmosphere. It is a place where we can see neighbours living together, exchange students and bohemian artists playing in the street.
Places of interest such as Guell Park, Vicens House, Lesseps Square or the Vicereine Square should also be noted. However the best part of the district is the atmosphere. There’s nothing like having a glass of vermouth on one of its squares or going along to the Gracia District festivals where they hold a spectacular street decorating contest.
The most visited buildings in the city of Barcelona
The architectural quality of the City of Barcelona is evident. Starting with perhaps the most famous building in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia Temple and ending with the finer details such as the Meridiana Dog Track. Some of them are must-sees for any tourist visiting the city.
Sagrada Familia Basilica
The Sagrada Familia or Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia is a work of the greatest expression by the Modernist Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi. The most visited church in Europe after St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. One of the most visited monuments in Spain, alongside the Prado Museum and the Alhambra in Granada.
A visit to the temple is impressive for its size, the architecture emulating nature and for its natural light that comes from all around. As soon as you go in, you fix upon the gigantic columns that branch out at a great height, emulating trees. The colours from the light passing through the large stained-glass windows dye the walls and atmosphere. The level of detail included in the temple is really impressive.
Another nature-based work by the architect Antoni Gaudi, La Pedrera or Casa Mila. Located on the Passeig de Gracia it is one of the top 10 most visited places in Barcelona. Its façade simulating waves moving seaweed through the form of balconies leaves nobody unmoved.
Inside La Pedrera we can find a model of an early 20th century home and an attic and Catalan dome of 800 metres squared with exhibitions of the life and work of Gaudi. The building’s peculiar terrace is another one of the most spectacular hidden corners due to its chimneys, shapes and skylights.
Once again, Antoni Gaudi was responsible for breathing life into a building in the middle of the Passeig de Gracia. In this case, it was an internal remodelling of the Casa Batlló. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an icon of Barcelona.
It attracts attention for its use of colours and shapes. It is known as the house of bones, the house of masks, the yawning house or the dragon house. It is a building that combines art, functionality, architecture and design.
Catalan Music Palace
The headquarters of the Catalan Choral Society, it is a concert hall that we can find in the Ribera Neighbourhood. Designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner, the building is known for its large glass walls and the integration of sculptures, mosaics, stained glass windows and metalwork.
In the Catalan Music Palace, we can find guided tours, a shop, restaurant and a documentation centre.
By Josep Renalies: Palau de la Música from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA
Old Hospital of Santa Creu and Sant Pau
You are going into a Modernist enclosure where the interiors and the exteriors will not leave you unmoved. The trip includes a visit to the Sant Rafael Pavilion in which we can find a model of a ward from the 20s. The guided tour usually lasts around an hour and a half.
The Old Hospital of Santa Creu and Sant Pau was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Santa Maria del Mar Basilica
A smaller church but featured in many books and television series. The novel, Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones was brought to television, the novel The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón or the young adult novel, Thesaurus, Men, Barcelona by Frica Ragel are evidence of this.
This basilica is a well-catalogued point of cultural interest which can be found between the Catalan History Museum, the Barcelona Picasso Museum and Ciutadella Park. A place near to Barceloneta and Port Vell.
What museums to visit in Barcelona
Barcelona has a great choice of museums, some of them very well-known and others more alternative and unusual. On our visit to Barcelona we can go to the Barcelona City History Museum (MUHBA), the Egyptian Museum, the Magic Museum, the National Catalan Art Museum (MNAC), Picasso Museum, Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), Gaudi Exhibition Centre and the list goes on.
We will focus on some of the most in-demand and visited museums and historical exhibitions in Barcelona.
National Catalan Art Museum
The National Catalan Art Museum or MNAC is a consortium made up of the Catalan Government, Barcelona Council and General State Administration. As you arrive, the most visible is the National Palace of Montjuic, a building opened in 1929 for the International Exposition that took place that year in Barcelona.
The MNAC Museum is one of the most important in Barcelona and in Spain. Outstanding collections of Romanesque art considered to be the most extensive in the world. We can find all kinds of art, spanning from Romanesque to the middle of the 20th century.
Picasso Museum in Barcelona
Around 4250 works by Pablo Picasso are displayed in this unique place. The Picasso Museum in Barcelona is the centre of reference when studying the formative years of the painter from Malaga.
The Picasso Museum is found in Barcelona’s Calle Montcada, between the Barcelona History Museum and Ciutadella Park.
Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art
The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art or MACBA is a museum dedicated to works done during the second half of the 20th century. There are around 5000 works that have been created from the 50s to today.
MACBA is located in the Raval district of Ciutat Vella. In this museum they also carry out educational activities.
Experiences and Activities in Barcelona
The choice of activities in Barcelona is as wide as it is never-ending. We will focus on two, one which is regularly mentioned and the other which is not so much. While on the Nou Camp Experience we can focus on the history of one of the most important football clubs in the world, in the Carmel Bunkers we can travel back to the Spanish Civil War to see the remains of an anti-aircraft battery.
Nou Camp Experience
It is not exactly a museum, for fans of FC Barcelona it is a necessary experience. The Nou Camp Experience allows us to tour the Nou Camp facilities in which, as well as seeing the museum with trophies and FC Barcelona’s iconic objects, we can see the locker rooms, the press rooms and step onto the turf.
If you like football, if you are a Barcelona fan or if you are interested in learning more about one of the best football clubs in the world, we recommend that you try out the Nou Camp Experience.
The Carmel Bunkers are possibly one of the best viewpoints that we can find in the city of Barcelona. It gives us a 360º view of the city and we can find the remains of an anti-aircraft battery from the Spanish Civil War and its installations.
The Carmel Bunkers Viewpoint is located on the top of the Turó de la Rovira hill in Carmel, some 262 metres above sea level. Without a doubt it is a place to take a good photograph of the city’s skyline.
By Biblola: Bunkes del Carmel from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA
Two Markets in Barcelona that you can’t miss
In the middle of the city centre, located in Barcelona’s La Rambla we find ourselves in the Boqueria Market or San Jose Market. A market where we will be able to find fresh products from the region and others from abroad.
There are 2500 square metres with around 300 stalls where we can find eggs, meat, cold cuts, sweets, fruit… It is one of the emblematic points in the city.
Encants Vells Flea Market
On Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the Encants Vells Flea Market opens its doors. There we can find antiques, collection pieces, footwear, jewellery, used and vintage clothing, metalwork, perfume, textiles, toys and everything you could ever imagine in a market.
In this market you can even attend auctions whose existence has been recorded back to the 14th century. They usually do them first thing in the morning and at midday.
Parks or tourist attractions
Barcelona has open spaces where you can enjoy some tranquillity, panoramic views of the city or even activities for all the public. Enjoy a walk through Antoni Gaudi’s Guell Park, climb the Collserola Mountain Range, 512 metres above sea level, to look out on views of the city or get lost in the Labyrinth Park of Horta, to give you some suggestions.
Guell Park is a large garden or area for walking where we can find all kinds of architectural elements made by Antoni Gaudi. Ceramic mosaics, animal figures, wavy shapes and columns in the shape of a tree make a visit there seem like a wise choice.
It is one of the most important places for tourists in the city. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A place where we can find gardens and history, one of the best viewpoints in the city of Barcelona, cultural facilities, the Miró Foundation, CaixaForum and some facilities from the 1992 Olympic Games.
Montjuic Park offers history, nature, culture and sport. We can find it from the other end of the city, thanks to the spectacular Communications Tower that is set up.
At 512 metres above sea level in the middle of the Collserola mountain range we have Tibidabo Park. A place that is famous for shaping part of the city’s skyline and having a great panoramic view of the city.
A unique and magical place, a park spread over 6 levels. Some 30 attractions, among them a rollercoaster, shows, a museum and interactive water fountains plus so much more.
Labyrinth Park of Horta
In the Horta-Guinardo district of Barcelona there is the historical garden called the Labyrinth Park of Horta. It is a park split into two zones, the neoclassic area with the cypress tree labyrinth and the Romanticism area.
A garden full of decorative elements, such as sculptures, pergolas, water fountains or ponds surrounded by a Mediterranean forest that isolates the park from the city.
Where to sleep in Barcelona
Our recommendations are coastal accommodation near to the city of Barcelona. There are areas on the Catalan coast that allow you to be between the sea and the mountains at the same time as being near to the city of Barcelona.
On the other hand, have you thought of holiday rentals of houses with private pools y holiday rentals of houses that accept dogs or other pets. Through this link you have all our holiday homes in Catalonia.